Local Crews Race the Weather to Button Up Building
Work crews hustled through the fall to complete major structural renovations on the historic Parker J. Noyes building in Lancaster.
“We are really so grateful for how hard everyone has worked and how the Garland Mill team has coordinated all the moving pieces,” said Julie Renaud Evans, program director for the Northern Forest Center, which owns the building.
The Center purchased the 11,000-square-foot building on Main Street in 2018 as part of its Community Investment work. The renovation will create retail space on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors, supporting Lancaster’s role as an economic hub for the North Country. The building is listed on the NH State Register of Historic Places.
“Like most renovation projects, we found some surprises,” said Evans. “We discovered some old fire damage in the rafters and determined we needed a full foundation under the back end of the building.”
The date of the fire is unknown, but it charred beams on the second floor. HEB Engineers prescribed reinforcements to eliminate any possible problems in the future, and Garland Mill and Canton Construction quickly put the reinforcements in place.
The other big surprise was that the rubble foundation at the east end of the building could not be stabilized enough to be used. With fall temperatures dropping quickly, Garland Mill, which is managing the project for the Center, raced to pull together designer Stuart Anderson of Alba Architects, HEB Engineers, excavator Dave Chessman of Lancaster, and concrete contractor Bob Barnes to plan and construct the new foundation.
“We used steel beams to lift the east half of the building,” said Ben Southworth, “then had to excavate the dirt and rubble foundation so we could pour concrete frost walls and put the building back down. We had to move fast because it’s difficult to pour concrete in cold weather.” The town assisted and closed Bunker Hill Street on a Saturday so that Geddes Building Movers could install steel I-beams and cribbing to jack up the building.
Over the next month, the team poured the footings, slab and frost walls and Geddes removed the I-beams and cribbing in early December. “It was really great teamwork,” said Renaud Evans. “We had to get it done fast before it got too cold, and we did it!”
The old foundation held another surprise: Chessman turned up an intact ceramic bottle from six feet below the road grade while he was digging footings for the north frost wall. “We thought we’d already found all the architectural salvage on the site, but then we found this cool bottle,” said Southworth. “I couldn’t believe it was in one piece. In the construction world, we say Dave has ‘soft hands.’ There aren’t many excavators who could have gotten that bottle out in once piece.”
Greg Mitchell and his team from Commonwealth Construction of Lancaster installed structurally insulated sheathing and the historically accurate Pella windows in the front half of the building, while Cantin Construction of Northumberland framed the west apartments on the second and third floors. Sheathing and window replacement continues now that the new foundation is complete.
With framing in place upstairs, Lewis Cassidy and his crew from McGee Company have begun installing plumbing. “Things are really humming now,” said Southworth. Later McGee Company will also install ventilation, heating and air conditioning.
Cantin Construction will begin framing the first floor, where Taproot Farm & Environmental Education Center, a Lancaster nonprofit, will move in the spring to provide more space for its food hub and gleaning program.
The project has attracted statewide support, as well as strong local support through two crowdfunding campaigns. Donors of cash or in-kind contributions to date include: Britton Lumber; Coos Economic Development Corporation; Cloutier Lancaster Redevelopment, LLC; Downs Rachlin Martin, PLLC; Geo M Stevens & Son Co.; HEB Engineers; Horizon Engineering; Madelaine G. von Weber Trust; Mascoma Bank Foundation; Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the NH Charitable Foundation; NH Community Development Finance Authority; NH Division of Historical Resources; NH Land and Community Heritage Investment Program; NH Preservation Alliance, through the Northern Border Regional Commission’s NHEP grant; Mascoma Bank Foundation; Northeast Heritage Economy Program; Northern Border Regional Commission; Northern Forest Center Lancaster Advisory Group; Peter Powell Real Estate; Eversource Energy; Taproot Farm & Environmental Education Center; Town of Lancaster; Trividia Manufacturing Solutions; Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund; and You Have Our Trust Fund.
The Center has secured significant financing for this $2.9-million project, including a mix of tax credits, public and foundation grants, charitable gifts and impact investments. Based on funds raised to date, $100,000 or 3 percent of the funding is from federal sources; $2.8 million or 97 percent is expected to come from non-federal sources.
Upstairs framing: Cantin Construction installed interior framing to create the new layouts in the apartments on the 2nd and 3rd floors.
Foundation: New footings and foundation walls for the east half of the building replaced the old rubble foundation that had failed.
Excavating; David Chessman's careful excavation work dug out the rubble from the east cellar in preparation for pouring the foundation walls. In the process he unearthed an intact 6-inch ceramic bottle.
Plumbing: Plumbing rough-ins are beginning upstairs.